At Just 28 years of age New Hampshire native; Josh Belanger is not only a self taught and self accomplished Illustrator and Graphic Designer, but is also in many ways a heroic inspiration to youth.  Forged by every drop of blood, sweat and tears that he has, conceiving a gruesomely spoofy cast of nightmarish monster's that lurk under the bed of his imagination. One that harbors within his darkly creative soul. Only to be seen breaking through the surface in a brain storm of mayhem with an explosive anatomy of color. Armed with a passion and love for drawing and painting, spawned from a fascination with the grotesque images stemming back to the legends of modern day llustration; paving the way before him, shades of Josh's forefathers and heroes can undoubtedly be seen in his work. But the point that really needs to be stressed is that Josh Belanger hasn't had any torch passed down to him, from one generation to the next. He's ignited a new flame for his own. The405 were lucky enough to kick back with Josh for this exclusive interview. Enjoy! When did you first realize that your ability to create art could actually become a possible career? First realize? hmmm, i'm not so sure, i had been doing it for years and got some supplemental income from it, and then it's all i did when i got home from my regular job. it ended up becoming all i really cared about. home at 8pm at night and stay up till 3-4am drawing, then back to work for 9. so i said the hell with selling cell phones and decided to go for it. i just got fed up with stupid emails about how i had to tuck in my shirt and had to address people a certain way, so i was all "fuck this" and left. It's worked out pretty well aside from a few hiccups, but it's my full time career now. Were you the type of kid that would get in trouble at school for doodling in class? Was your choice to become an artists something that was regularly embraced; given your talents, during your youth or was it something often frowned upon by your parents, teachers and friends who told you being an artist wasn't a "real" job. etc I'd spend all day in every class drawing something, me and a friend had a few comic books we were working on, and i never once got in trouble for it. i think it was because i still got A's. school was one of those things that i could care less about but just did the work to save myself the hassle of getting in trouble over it. my parents loved the fact that i drew all the time and was a good kid. i could stay out all night and do whatever i wanted as long as i made it to school and my grades were still tip top. the only opposition was from my art teacher. i drew cartoon characters all the time, and she told me "you know you're never going anywhere with that you know" biiiiiiitttttttttttccccccccccccch.(she has recently contacted me and asked to give a talk to the school about being a "living artist") Lets talk a little bit about the graphic novel that you've had published called "The Fat Sqaud". How did the initial idea of creating a comic book come about and how was "The Fat Squad" idea created? Hahaha at a lunch table in 10th grade, me and my friend rich started drawing a cartoon of how awesome it would be to steal a pepsi truck, and there was this kid that had this glassy eyed stare and didnt move his eyes when he talked to anyone, just his neck. so we named him the fake kid, made him a cybernetic villian in the comic, and gave us all super powers. the rule was to never map out the story, rich and i would just draw panels as we passed it back and forth, and had to go off what the other one had done. it ended up being an 80 page epic where at the end we were just competing to draw the coolest stuff. i thought i was awesome when i drew a helicopter, he outdid me with a spaceship that was the size of new york city. Fast forward to now, it's turned into just a comedy strip based on our lives. its been on the web since 1999 and in various newspapers. our publisher was all "hey wanna do a book" and we were all "yep". so we did it, went on tour across the country supporting it, and now we have boxes and boxes of books cause no one bought it. i mean, it's 12 dollars. who wants to spend 12 dollars on a book about cartoon fat guys that they don't know is funny. i understand haha. we're working on book 2, some more college and indie papers, and various animated projects shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Compared to your other work, which is a lot darker, gory and more detailed, The Fat Squad seems to be more comedic and upbeat. In terms of drawing style it is also rather simplistic. Is this something that you felt confidently enough about or do you think it held back your artistic freedom to create something wild and exagerated. Are they any plans to do something like this in the future? Nah, i love drawing the squad stuff. its so simple and fun. artistically i think it's close to what its always going to be, but the challenge with the fatsquad is telling the stories, pacing, and just trying to turn out something funny. it's like another frontier to push myself artistically. in the book i had to draw the fatsquad fighting lions along side a gladiator, and i wanted to make it as gory and powerful as possible, but in a cartoony happy sort of way. so it was tough. but fun, and awesome. you should buy one. How long have you been designing merch for bands and How did this all start out? Think i started in 2002 for the band Final Word in Montreal. it was a friends husband, and he saw some of my work and asked if i wanted to do a shirt. i thought it'd be cool to see some stuff printed up so i said yea. for free of course. then i did another one, and then another. then i started getting emails from bands "hey man, fred from final word gave me your info...." and i'd agree. then i started charging a little bit, then a little bit more. then in 2006 i said the hell with a real job, and started doing this full time. I was homeless for almost all of 2007, living on friends couches and in my art studio. now lookit me, designing shirts for millions of dollars and oiled up bikini clad women just dance up on me day in and day out. Where does your fascination for drawing people and the human anatomy derive from? Egon Schiele. In college i fell in love with his work. all of his figure drawings were these gross perversions of the human form and i just fell in love with it. thats right around when i started really looking into other artists for inspiration. i traveled to new york on several occaisions just to wander into various galleries and try to soak in as much art as i possible could. I remember driving 7 hours one day, and then a 2 hour train ride to see the biggest collection of Egon's work ever collected. stood outside for 3 hours in 10 degree weather, waiting to get in. went in and was just floored seeing it all live. then left, took the 2 hour train ride back to the car, then drove back home. it was a hell of a day. but 100000% worth it. Would you say that each of your portrait pieces can tell or have a personal story attached to the character in them? Is this intentional? Haha of course. one of the things i hate about showing in galleries is people coming up to me and asking me what the paintings mean. most of my paintings are intensely personal, showing them is one thing, because they can have that art mystique about them. giving a gallery talk is one hell of another thing. eeessshhhhh. so it's sort of torture for me to go ahead and try to explain things, but, i do what i can. an ex girlfriend was at an opening of mine, and someone came up to me and asked about a specific painting. all i did was point to her, and apparently, she saw it. and stormed out of the place. What is your favorite medium to work with when creating a new piece, paint, pencil, mixed? Do you prefer to work in colour or in black and white? I suppose if i really knew how to paint, i would say oils. most of the paintings i do are really drawings with paint slapped over them. i'm trying to learn as best i can, and who knows, maybe i'll never get it. meeting artists has been great as to gaining a persepective. i met a man YEARS ago, i don't remember his name at all. he was 67, and he told me that he had no clue where he was heading as an artist, it might hit him in 2 years, it may hit him in 10, or not at all. and i thought that was quite profound. i have no clue if i'm going to get anywhere doing what i love, or where the hell it's going to lead me, i just do. and one day maybe i'll hit this wall of enlightenment, or i'll die miserable and alone painting pictures of boobs, i have no clue, all i know is that i'm doing what i love right now. Who or What influences you into creating a new piece? Does music influence your work at all? Well i'm told i'm a weird guy, i don't know if thats true, BUT, i stay up most nights until 3-4am listening to AM radio, hearing about excorcisms, ghosts, demons, werewolves, ufo's, wormholes, the DMTverse, chakras, and pretty much anything thats going on in the world. i also spend most days watching/listening to documentaries or any other movies i think might be interesting. i just like to soak up knowledge. so those kinds of things always inspire any kinds of cool imagery that i might want to come up with. seeing other art is also one of the biggest catalysts to being creative, i just recently went down and saw James Jeans first fine art exhibit at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery in New York. i went there three days in a row, just in awe of all these pieces. it made me want to paint again, which, given my illustration workload, i haven't been able to do recently. As far as music, music does influence my work as a kind of underlying basis for my work. i've had this idea that music hits you with an emotion right away and can completely take over a persons feelings, and thats what i want my art to do. i want it to be this huge unrelenting piece that affects a person right away. i want this overwhelming awe that you can get from music, that only hits you with some art. thats one of the reasons for my paintings being 6-8ft tall, it's much easier to get that unyeilding presence from somthing that large. i don't think i'm anywhere near it with illustration, but hey, it's something to strive for. who knows if i'll ever get there. You've also had some of your art word printed onto skateboard decks. This seems to be a trend with many artsist these days. What was your purpose for swapping a canvas for wood? I know! i did it after i saw Ashely Wood's art on some skatedecks at a comic con. i thought it was always cool. and some bands have voluntarily made some of my art into decks. where fine art can meet street art and gain the respect of both groups and turn different subcultures onto different ideas. similarly, how james jean got his own prada line. if prada was like "hey josh, want to put some art on our product?" hell yes. and then me and jj can hang out and sketch porn stars together. i think i saw a few kent williams pieces on decks, and who could forget audrey kawasaki. And finally, what does the future hold for Josh Belanger? In regards to your work, new projects and any other personal aspirations you have in life. Is there anyone you'd like to give a shout out to? I'm not so sure, i'm the busiest i've ever been in my life, and it rules. i think being able to draw whatever you want to for a living is pretty much all anyone who does this can ask for. i recently got a dog and bought a motorcycle, so, i'm pretty much set. Fatsquad Book 2 is written, i've got a few gallery shows coming up locally and around the country. the only other thing i want to do is travel some more and release an art book, just to have it in my hands. maybe donate proceeds or something i'm not sure. think that'd be pretty sweet. as far as shout outs? i've met (and am meeting) so many people as a result of doing this, that coming up with names i don't think would do it justice unless this thing can be 90 pages long. I know I know, cop out right? I'm humbled by so many of the artists i've met, and i'm so glad to call them my peers. i've also met some people, through doing art for bands, i can name them some of my best friends now.Who knew drawing pictures of skulls could be so awesome. - Aaron Hunt